Deathstroke Vs. Jesus – Christopher Priest Writes About DC Comics, Censorship, Sex, Religion And Birth Control

Legendary comic book writer Christopher Priest, currently on Deathstroke for DC and Catalyst Prime for Lion Forge, writes for Bleeding Cool,

The next issue of Deathstroke, #20, is unique in that it breaks several longstanding comics taboos against (a) religion (Satanism is fine, can’t talk in any genuine way about God or, heaven forbid, Christ), (b) same-gender relationships (the super-villain is both a follower of Christ, a villain, and gay), and most absurdly (c) women’s feminine health issues (we are not allowed to mention or depict women going through their monthly cycle).

The Gospel of Slade: Deathstroke preaches to his son
The Gospel of Slade: Deathstroke preaches to his son

Next issue, the “Lazarus Contract” epilogue, includes all of the above. I have _no_ idea why I’m not fired.

I am genuinely impressed with how progressive DC has become. The last time I mentioned a woman’s menstrual cycle was Black Canary #8, circa 1988(?) where I gave Dinah Lance her period. There were meetings and memos and editor Denny O’Neil fretted over the decision and had to get permission. And we could not refer to it directly but obliquely as Dinah’s “bad mood.”

So, with Deathstroke #20, I am left to presume either DC has become much more progressive, or, nobody noticed. Which means maybe I *am* about to get fired.

Conservative Christians will likely love and hate next issue at the same time. Our theme is redemption and closure as we wrap up most Year One storylines. But the messaging is imperfect as are the relationships, both of which present complex inquiries into our existence and purpose as well as confronting the question and relevance of God, however each of us see or interpret God.

I really did expect a phone call telling me they burned the script and I’d have to start over. But, not a word changed and out the door it went.

Deathstroke attempts to mend fences with Tanya (Power Girl) Spears.
Deathstroke attempts to mend fences with Tanya (Power Girl) Spears.

I’ve asked DC Comics to send a preview copy to Christianity Today. No word yet on if they’ve done so. But I’d really like comics to take more and greater chances and to expand our audience beyond the traditional market. There are *billions* of dollars– with a “B” –to be made in the evangelical market. It mystifies me as to why neither DC nor Marvel are in it.

I doubt any Christian bookstore would carry Deathstroke #20, mainly because it questions religion as much as embraces it. With traditional Christian bookstore chains, there’s a certain quantity of Kool-Aid that must be consumed, which misses the mark of Christ’s message by about a mile.

Great art, great books and great music are typically banned from these chains which insist on a kind of inoffensive rounding off of reality and adherence to an evangelical message. In my experience, questioning my faith has only strengthened it.

Deathstroke #20 is surely not an evangelical tool, it is just another issue of a comic book about an itinerant murderer. The Christian theme is just that–the theme of this issue, just as gun violence was the theme of #11.

As with all good writing, the point is not to tell you what to think or even what to do, but to get the conversation started. Deathstroke #20 will most certainly accomplish that.

Really grateful to DC, seriously, for confounding my expectations of censorship.

Tanya (Power Girl) Spears is prescribed a dose of reality
Tanya (Power Girl) Spears is prescribed a dose of reality


Special thanks to storytelling/layout artist Larry Hama and a big shout to penciller Carlo Pagulayan who pulls out ALL of the stops with this one, breathing amazing depth into these characters. It is simply a gorgeous issue. My typing is nothing without my guys.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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